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Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward, just go out and play

Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward wants to quit thinking so much

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 15 2010 12:25 a.m. MST

Utah rookie Gordon Hayward, center, was the No. 9 pick in the draft, the Jazz's first lottery pick since Deron Williams.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — He's made three straight starts at shooting guard in place of injured veteran Raja Bell.

He's averaged 13.3 minutes per game during that span, but taken no more than two shots in any of those three outings and scored exactly one point.

He's averaging a team-low 1.9 points per game and shooting a team-low 37.2 percent from the field.

Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward, suffice it to say, isn't very pleased with his play of late.

Too tentative.

Too cautious.

Too little confidence.

He firmly feels it's all that, and more.

"I'm just thinking way too much, and I'm just doing what I can do. And that's got to change." Hayward, a lottery pick from Indiana's Butler University, said after Monday's win over Golden State.

"I just have to go out there and play basketball," he added on the same night second-round rookie Jeremy Evans helped spark the Jazz with four especially impressive dunks. "But, right now, I feel like I'm just trying to do everything too 'right.' "

And that simply feels too wrong.

Instead, Hayward said, he needs to start believing that "it's OK to make a mistake, as long as it's an aggressive mistake."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was asked before Monday's game if he'd consider starting someone else in place of Bell — perhaps swingman C.J. Miles, Utah's top bench scorer, or combo guard Ronnie Price.

But Sloan wasn't thinking that way at all, in part because he typically doesn't want to disrupt his regular rotation even when a starter is out and in part because he wants Hayward to overcome his woes.

Even though he went No. 9 overall in last June's NBA Draft, after all, the affable 20-year-old is still a rookie generally unaccustomed to things not going his way.

"It's tough for these young guys," said Sloan, whose 18-8 Jazz are off until visiting New Orleans on Friday night.

"Gordon's struggled a little bit. He's going through tough times," the Jazz coach added. "They just have to fight, and work out of it."

Although he scored nine points while logging 21 minutes in the Jazz's season-opener and played 25 minutes the next night, that second outing — a TNT-televised home-opening loss to Phoenix — seemingly proved to be the precipice of Hayward's hard times.

He failed to run the floor properly in the game against the Suns, and felt the wrath of All-Star point guard Deron Williams as a result.

Williams first whipped a pass at Hayward that didn't exactly seem to be delivered with the best of intentions, then he dressed down the rookie with a barrage of less-than-uplifting words loud enough for a national audience to hear.

Williams afterward suggested he thought reporting of the matter was grossly overplayed by a local-yokel press corps, even though it was the TNT crew —mostly analyst Reggie Miller, the retired star on Hayward's hometown Indiana Pacers — that initially discussed it most extensively.

Hayward agreed that fallout from the matter was unnecessarily exaggerated, and doesn't buy the assertion that perhaps it is the root of his recent trying times.

"Nah, I forgot about it," he said. "I think it was just 'in the game,' and I think we became stronger from it."

Rather, Hayward — who didn't play (coach's decision) in the Jazz's two games before Bell became unavailable, and who before becoming Utah's fill-in starter hadn't played more than four minutes in 11 straight games — believes he knows where he needs turn to improve his play.

That would be to his head, where a tad too much seems to be going on.

"I," he said, "am doing just a little too much thinking."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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